14 Traditional Tools of the Maasai

We explore some important tools used by the Maasai community in Arusha, Tanzania.

Collective tools (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

Tools that the Maasai use

The Maasai society is pastoralist in lifestyle. Their main source of livelihood is cattle and farming. To support this lifestyle, there are certain tools that the Maasai use on a daily basis.  

Using Ormuyuko (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

Their close proximity to nature has also translated to many objects that are environmentally sustainable and easy to source. Here are 14 commonly used tools and their names in Maa language.

Ortage (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

1. Ortage

Ortage is a wooden tool that is used to pull things up from the ground.  This tool is U-shaped on the top which helps to hold wooden logs, while at the bottom it is L-shaped to pull things up from the ground. 

Engeene (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

2. Engeene

These are big wooden logs that are cleaned and placed against the trees for support. The logs are then eventually cut down and used in building bomas (traditional homes) or kraals (cattle enclosures).

Enkinen (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

3. Enkinen

These are small wooden sticks that have multiple uses. They are used as firewood for cooking. They are also added to the enclosure along with big sticks of boma and kraals.

Ibokishi (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

4. Ibokishi

These big wooden sticks are used to form the boundaries of boma and cattle enclosures or kraals.

Endolu: The Axe (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

5. Endolu

Endolu is an axe used to chop wood.

Emundo (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

6. Emundo

This is a sickle that is used to cut grass, which is later used to make the thatched roof of a boma.

Ormishire (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

7. Ormishire

This tool is used to make marks on cattle. The Maasai individually mark their cattle with long curving lines and intricate patterns designed to enhance the animal’s beauty. It’s also a sign of emotionally bonding with their cattle. Each clan has its own special earmark for identifying its cattle.

Orkipire (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

8. Ormuyuko

Ormuyuko is a kitchen tool, used as a spatula to stir while cooking.

Ormuyuko (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

9. Orkipire

Orkipire is a kitchen tool, used as a ladle to stir and pour dishes after they have been cooked.

Engoti (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

10. Engoti

It is made of a gourd or calabash, from a fleshy, trailing plant, like a pumpkin. The insides of the gourd are scraped and burnt in order to clean it, after which the shell is left to dry in the sun and then used as a storage container, mostly for liquids like milk or porridge.

The Maasai Warriors (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

11. Fimbo

These wooden sticks are used to defend the family and cattle against wild animals, with lions being a very real threat. Sticks are primarily used because they are easy to obtain, yet if properly used are very effective. Every Moran (Maasai Warrior) carries a fimbo with them.

Embere (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

12. Embere

The spear is the most precious possession of a Moran which is used for stabbing, defending cattle and the community against predators, thrown in cases of emergency. The spear is about 6-7 feet long made of a strong steel blade, connected with a wooden stick.

Lion’s Sword (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

13. Olalem

This is a constant sidearm of Maasai men. It is a light short sword with a double-edged, leaf-shaped spatulate blade, often made from spring steel. The Maasai use this blade for everything from clearing bush to peeling fruit. They also use it for self-defense.

Rungu (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

14. Rungu

Rungu is a handheld wooden club that is meant to be thrown or used as a baton. It bears special symbolism and significance with the Morans. It is an emblem of warriors and is seen as more of a baton of status than a weapon. It is now largely used as a tourist souvenir in East Africa. Local women are widely employed in sewing decorative beads onto the handles of those made for the tourist trade.

Credits: Story

Project FUEL would like to thank the Maasai community in the Losimingori village of Arusha, Tanzania for opening their hearts and home to this research. 

This exhibit is part of the Wise Wall Project, an initiative of Project FUEL, to document, design, and strengthen the wisdom of rural communities and marginalized villages using art and community outreach programs. In the third edition of this project, we collaborated with the Maasai, in Arusha, Tanzania, to build an on-ground community centre for the people and bring an exclusive insight into the life, lifestyle, and learnings of this inspiring community.

Photography: Vibhor Yadav, Siddharth Govindan
Wall Murals: Poornima Sukumar
Canvas Art: Advithi Emmi
Cultural Consultant and Translators: Kaay Ndoika Lengima, Elisha Olchakai Kirumui and Lemali Ndoika
Research, Interviews and Curation: Project FUEL
Project Partners: Vijana Inspiring Foundation, Vikram Solar Ltd., Lions Club of Dar es Salaam and Arusha, Google Arts & Culture

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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